Truck Drivers and Distracted Driving: A Deadly Combination

Distracted driving is a growing problem for all drivers, but it is particularly dangerous when commercial truck drivers aren’t paying attention to the road. Since truck drivers are considered professional and they operate much larger vehicles than the average citizen, they are held to a higher legal standard than the rest of the drivers on the road. This guide shows why it’s important for truck drivers to avoid distracted driving and how it can be prevented.

How Big of a Problem Is Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains records of traffic safety statistics as a means of looking for ways to make our country’s roads and highways safer. In 2016, one study found that distracted driving incidents resulted in 3,450 traffic fatalities, while another 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents. That’s an increase from the 10% of traffic fatalities that were attributed to distracted driving in 2015. In that previous year, 15% of all serious traffic accident injuries were also the result of distracted driving.

Distracted driving can refer to anything that takes the driver’s eyes, ears, or attention away from their driving responsibilities. While we tend to think of cell phone use as the primary cause of distracted driving, it’s not the only cause. Everything from adjusting a radio to taking a drink of coffee can take your attention away from the road long enough to result in an accident. As a driver goes faster, the chances of a distracted driving accident are increased. Taking your eyes off the road for just 10 seconds is long enough to miss seeing an obstacle until it’s too late.

How Is Distracted Driving Regulated for Commercial Truck Drivers?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the licensing of commercial drivers, so they’re responsible for establishing safe driving rules. The organization has recently updated their regulations to address the growing problem of distracted driving. As a result, interstate truck drivers are prohibited from texting or using any handheld devices while they’re operating their vehicles. The only exception to this rule is the use of two-way radios that are authorized for official use by their employers. The two-way radio must not have texting capabilities, however.

Research done by the FMCSA found that truck drivers who engaged in texting had a 23 times higher chance of becoming involved in a serious or fatal traffic accident. Drivers engaged in mobile phone use for phone calls were six times more likely to become involved in traffic incidents.

When drivers violate the FMCSA rules, they face serious penalties. If they’re caught texting or using a handheld device, they can face hefty fines, suspensions, and may even have their licenses revoked. The organization does allow the use of hands-free technology.

Eliminating the Temptation of Distracted Driving

There are a few things truck drivers can do to keep themselves from committing distracted driving offenses. They should be thinking about distracted driving before they even start driving by programming the GPS system with their destination ahead of time. Additionally, mobile devices should be set to mute for the duration of the drive. Phone calls and other messages can be returned during breaks.

Drivers should take frequent breaks as they’re needed. Like any professional, a truck driver must rely on breaks to help keep the mind alert and the body energized. Even a short five or 10 minute break is enough to stretch your legs and give your senses a break. This is also the time to reply to those messages and grab a quick bite to eat.

Find other ways to keep the mind alert. Watching for familiar trucks or looking for distracted drivers are good ways to occupy your mind and keep your attention on the road. These types of mental games will also keep you from daydreaming.

What Happens When Someone Is Injured Due to Distracted Truck Driving

If distracted driving leads to a trucking accident, you could lose your job, your trucking license, and you may even lose a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. In some cases, the trucking company will be responsible for the damages, but in others the driver may be held personally liable.

Some of the ways the victims’ lawyers can prove liability against you is by investigating your:

  • Driving history
  • Logs and records
  • Maintenance records
  • Truck and trailer history
  • Any manufacturing defects
  • Your criminal records

Source: Distracted driving is simply not worth the risks, especially not if you’re a truck driver. Don’t lose your life, your livelihood, and your future because you used an electronic device to stave-off boredom. Instead, follow the tips in this article.

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